THE RELATIONSHIP OF NEUROTICISM AND EXTRAVERSION TO SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION IN THE GENERAL POPULATION


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Abstract

Few studies have investigated the relationship of the personality dimensions of neuroticism and extraversion to the symptoms of depression and anxiety in the general population. A random general population sample (ages 20-70 years), from two Finnish cities was surveyed with the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). In addition, questions regarding diagnosed lifetime mental disorders, health care use for psychiatric reasons in the past 12 months, and history of mental disorders in first-degree relatives were posed. Among the 441 subjects who participated, neuroticism correlated strongly with symptoms of depression (rs=.71, P<.001) and anxiety (rs=.69, P<.001), and somewhat with self-reported lifetime mental disorder (rs=.30, P<.001) and health care use for psychiatric reasons in the past 12 months (rs=.24, P<.001). Extraversion correlated negatively with symptoms of depression (rs=-.47, P<.001), anxiety (rs=-.36, P<.001), self-reported lifetime mental disorder (rs=-.17, P<.001), and health care use for psychiatric reasons in the past 12 months (rs=-.14, P=.004). In multiple regression models, even after adjusting for gender, age, and education, BDI scores were significantly associated with neuroticism, extraversion, and age, whereas BAI scores were associated only with neuroticism. Neuroticism is strongly associated with depressive and anxiety symptoms, and intraversion is moderately associated with depressive symptoms in the urban general population. The relationship of these personality dimensions to both self-reported lifetime mental disorders and use of health services for psychiatric reasons strengthens the clinical validity of these personality dimensions.

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